How Horses Led To The Invention Of Pants

Okay, so many of us don't wear pants anymore; thanks, 2020. But, in the era before COVID-19 forced people to be all-day pajama wearers, covering legs with pants of any form was considered socially polite. Which begs the question, why do we wear pants at all?

Napoleon wore pants. So did Winston Churchill. But you know who didn't wear pants? Alexander the Great. At what point in history did we as a people decide, yes, pants they are important? That was right around the time we decided walking was for losers and started riding horses. Yep, horses are the reason for all this pants nonsense.

Pants, by definition, are clothing that covers your legs, which includes pajama pants. The idea is to protect the legs. Before the advent of pants, wrote The Atlantic, robes and tunics were mainly in use. Some cultures wore kilts. But the moment humans began to domesticate the horse, the necessity of a garment to protect one's legs began to arise. Horses were first domesticated around 4,000 years ago, explained Smithsonian Magazine. Humans were then able to use horses to pull plows and carts and eventually learn to ride them. Riding horses, though, required some fancy new clothing. If you've ever been in a heatwave and you were walking with, say, a skirt on, you may notice your inner thighs tend to rub. That's the exact feeling you get when riding a horse sans protection. Hence, humanity invented pants to make horse riding more comfortable.

The oldest pair of pants dates back 3,000 years

Pants allowed people to stay longer atop man's favorite hardworking beast, and hence are some oldest garments known to man. Smithsonian Magazine placed the oldest found pair of pants as 3,000 years old. These were worn by a man found inside a tomb in China. Scientists believe he was a warrior, found with an array of horse riding tools such as a whip, bridle, and a bit, along with a few weapons. This particular pair of pants predates the previously thought oldest pair by about 400 years. The others were worn by the Cherchen Man, a body discovered in another tomb in the same region. ScienceNews described the pants as straight fitted, with a wide crotch and made of wool. These weren't made-to-fit pants; they had strings on the sides to tighten to fit. Since the pair of pants were found among horse riding implements, scientists said it bolsters their belief that pants were invented strictly to make riding a horse more bearable. Archaeologists think the dry air surrounding the area where the tomb was found may have contributed to the garment's preservation.

Before pants wearing, researchers have found that some people also wore loincloths with leggings, as evidenced by the garments preserved with the Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year old body of a man found in Europe.

But since humans don't ride horses as often anymore, you say, why is it that people still wear pants?

Yeah, but you still need to put on pants for polite company

The most straightforward and simple answer is that we got used to it. The more complicated answer, Slate pointed out, is that horse riding and, therefore, the person on top of the horse and what they're wearing, became synonymous with power and strength. Over time, people associated horse riding with high social status. So knights and cavalry soldiers who fought atop horses lent an air of authority that spread to others.

It's no wonder that people who traditionally did not wear pants began to want to wear them. Societal and fashion norms often excluded women from wearing pants. Though riding pants or breeches were permitted, these were often worn underneath voluminous skirts. Remember, too, that women rode horses sidesaddle. It wasn't until bicycles, aka human-powered horse, became popular that rebellious women began wearing pants to ride them, according to The Guardian – petticoats got stuck on the spokes.

These days, people of any gender can choose to wear pants (or not). Most of us no longer ride horses, so we don't need to wear them for protection anymore. But when you think about it, pants are probably the oldest pieces of clothing we still wear today. While being stuck inside has encouraged a lot of people to go pants-less, it might be time to appreciate pants again for withstanding thousands of years. Now, if only women's pants pockets got bigger.